September 15th, 2011
11:52 AM ET

Hank Azaria's not afraid to cry on 'Free Agents'

NBC's new romantic comedy "Free Agents," spun from the British series of the same name, is 30 minutes spent defining awkwardness in the workplace. Anybody who has spent time in a corporate setting will instantly relate.

Set in a public relations firm, all the main office-based rom-com characters are present: the boss who's a little too free with the personal details (Anthony Head), the fratty womanizer ("Chelsea Lately" regular Mo Mandel), the sassy executive assistant (Natasha Leggero), and the coworker who desperately tries to fit in and fails miserably ("The Daily Show" regular Al Madrigal).

"Free Agents" revolves around Hank Azaria's Alex, who we meet in arguably the most awkward of situations: post hook-up with his co-worker, Helen (Kathryn Hahn). Following a few fumbles, both verbal ("Is this part lights on or off?") and non-verbal (The walls full of engagement photos were cringe worthy), the scene ends with Alex breaking down in tears.

If seeing a grown man sobbing gets to you, then buckle up. Alex, in the middle of a heart-wrenching divorce, punctuates the show with occasional bursts of crying and existential crises.

What's fun, though, is how we slowly come to find out that it's not just Alex that's a mess; Helen has her share of emotional turmoil, having lost her fiancé - a loss she hasn't really begun to deal with, even a year later.

The office scenes prove fast-paced and funny, portraying a candid picture of how most of us like to imagine a major PR firm operates. Prime example: "So how do we spin this? Complete denial, or do we blame someone else?"

The show also manages to get in a fair amount of quotable one-liners. (I'm going to try to work the word "Safe-ganic" into casual conversation at least once.) And the unnervingly detailed account from Alex's boss on his method of dealing with divorce proved, well, memorable.

Azaria's Alex doesn't disappoint as a heady mix of self-awareness and self-loathing, but the person I'm most excited to see more from is Kathryn Hahn's character. I've loved her since the days of "Crossing Jordan," (am I the only one that misses that show?) and this new role seems like something she'll really play like a natural.

One character I'm not sold on is Emma, the executive assistant. I'm not sure if it's the timing, or her delivery of the sass - but I have a feeling she may turn into the character everyone loves to hate.

Should "Free Agents" make its way through an entire season, it'll be interesting to see what direction Alex and Helen's relationship will take. It's obvious there's chemistry there, but I don't think anyone - including Alex and Helen - knows what kind of chemistry.

If you caught this show, what did you think? Is there potential for "Free Agents" to turn into a strong series?

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Filed under: Fall TV • television • TV recaps

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. kiran

    Free Agents was alot better than Up All Night...It was actually very smart and funny, I laughed quite a bit....so I hope it will catch on to more people and last a long time.....it should come before UAN.....didn't think that show was funny at all

    September 20, 2011 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Hanna

    I enjoyed this show and Up All Night. I thought both were funny and fresh as opposed to the "reality" crap that is on every channel now-a-days or some juvenile BS show. It's nice to see actors act and not wanna be celebrity pinheads. I hope both shows do well.

    September 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. doc5467

    Sorry but I agree with those who found both these shows unfunny and uninteresting. Mr. Azaria is just not cut out to be a "leading man" of a romantic comedy; his many talents lie elsewhere. The wtiers of both shows just don't have a clue as to what makes an enjoyable sit-com these days. No, these shows will be pulled before Thanksgiving, you can count on it.

    September 16, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. nunyabidness

    hopefully Hank didn't q

    September 16, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. takone

    The scene where Hahn is chugging wine with lipstick all over her fiance's picture was hilarious and her trips to the grocery store were awkwardly entertaining. Can't wait to see more of this show, I already set my DVR

    September 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nighthhaaawk

    Did not see either show.. wife watched "Up All Night" thought it unfunny and switched to a rerun of NCIS.

    September 16, 2011 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gumsah

    Katy's the saving grace but a huge mismatch to Hank, who feels like a step brother to her, and happens to cross over and sleep with her...this show is awful. One season and done...terrible waste of Hank's talents.

    September 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. qmb913

    I liked it. I agree with Sean -I ike kathryn Hahn. She was great in How do you know. I also miss Crossing Jordan.
    Not so sure of the supporting characters, but that can be tweaked later if need be.

    September 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lila

    Up all Night and Free Agents was awful. I'll be shocked if either one lasts.

    September 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mandy

      What makes them so horrible? I thought they were both great! My family and I laughed through them both.

      September 16, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. Kappy

    I enjoyed Free Agents and Up All Night as well. Both shows have a lot of strong, comedic personalities, and if people are smart enough to jump on board with them, they will both have long runs.

    September 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Its a drive by

    Sounds like a show about weak in the knees, wussy, pu$$y democrats.

    September 15, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Just sayin'.

      "So how do we spin this? Complete denial, or do we blame someone else?" sound distinctly Republican to me.

      September 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |

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